Down On Love.
August 23, 2007 4:47 PM   Subscribe

What are some good recommendations for recent fiction/film with NO romantic entanglements?

I have been single for a LONG time. I can't stand wandering the streets, watching every ho-hum guy with every ho-hum girl, seeing the magazines with all the latest couples, and constantly seeing couples unite in fiction and film. I just want to read a good story in which, perhaps, the guy could care less whether or not he gets the girl. Maybe he doesn't even want the girl.

What are some good recommendations for fiction or film in which there is absolutely no love story?

Limitations: Within the last 30 years would be preferable. Also, not a lot of violence, sadness, or children's stories.
posted by sweetkid to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
posted by contraption at 4:53 PM on August 23, 2007

Oops, just realized that movie is more than 30 years old. Wow. Well, watch it anyway.
posted by contraption at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2007

Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian was pretty short on love.
posted by saladin at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine was recommended to me as fitting this criteria after a bad breakup of my own.
posted by granted at 5:02 PM on August 23, 2007

it's hard to think of any with no love whatsoever--here are some that might have characters with partners, but which aren't love stories or have love as a plot or subplot:

"letters from iwo jima" might be good--there are a couple of flashbacks to a wife, but nothing steamy and only barely romantic.

"serenity" was a fun and surprisingly intelligent and enjoyable sci-fi flick (and i generally like arthouse stuff). it's all plot and fun dialogue. there is a little sex/love, but it's pretty cartoony--more likely to make you laugh than sigh.

"all the president's men" is that wonderful watergate classic, and not a batted eyelash to be seen.

"babe" was adorable. yes, it's a talking pig. but it was delightful.

"children of men" was awesome. there are a couple of characters who love or are in love, but it's only fleeting.

"dead poet's society" was, of course, great.

"syriana" was incredibly interesting. you might have to watch it twice just to catch everything.

"the last temptation of christ" does have a love story, but it's very weird and almost on another level. it won't make you jealous.

"the quiet american" is a very good movie with only a peripheral love story.

"pan's labyrinth" was a groovy spanish movie about a child's creepy fantasy world

"road to perdition" was a very underrated story about a kid on the run with his dad from gangsters in the prohibition-era midwest. really amazing.

"three kings" was a lot of fun. yeah, one guy has a wife, but again, their relationship is not a huge part of the story.

hope those get you started!
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:22 PM on August 23, 2007

The Sting is 34 years old, but is very good.

Glengarry Glen Ross is dramatic, but I don't think overly sad.
posted by Gary at 5:30 PM on August 23, 2007

Shawshank Redemption

Secondhand Lions I think has a flashback scene involving a romance, but it's short and not central to the story.

What sort of book / movie are you looking for? Action? Comedy? Drama? That might help job some memories.

For books, I can only recommend John Swartzwelder's books as having no love story at all. But they're comedies in the Simpsons-vein, and are more jokey/funny than they are a good story.
posted by Gary at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2007

"Muriel's Wedding" might be an interesting choice. It's more about friendship, and "wedding" does not really seem to equate to "love" for dear Muriel. I don't think there's any romantic love (or even attempted romantic love) in the movie, though there is a wedding.

In the end, if I'm remembering correctly, true friendship triumphs over the illusion of perfect couplehood, and over the belief that couplehood makes ones life perfect. Might be right up your alley.
posted by amtho at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2007

Gary, Comedy/Action would be preferable.
posted by sweetkid at 5:53 PM on August 23, 2007

Terry Pratchett's Discworld books about the wizards, esp. the ones about Rincewind, rarely have much to do with romance (Equal Rites is the only exception I can think of, and that only a bit near the end). The ones about the witches are more of a gamble, however ineptly romantic Magrit is.
posted by Tuwa at 5:55 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

A lot of Asimov. His mystery collections, Tales of the Black Widowers, etc., were about a stag club--the guys in question were married, but the wives weren't present or generally mentioned at all. Ender's Game is pretty notable for not having romance, but you might not like it (it is young adult).

Kiki Strike is young adult, but I thought it was pretty good (for an adult to read)--it's modern adventure.

I was thinking about Pratchett, too, and while there aren't a lot of romantic relationships there IS a lot of innuendo, etc., probably not the thing you want to read when you're gloomy about being single.
posted by anaelith at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2007

I'd recommend The Station Agent too, if you wouldn't be bothered by the ex-husband of one of the main characters showing up briefly. (It's not a romantic scene, but of course we'd expect that they used to be romantically involved.) And there is some sadness towards the end but for the most part it's a muted, quirky comedy/drama about friendship and acceptance.
posted by Tuwa at 6:08 PM on August 23, 2007

The Big Lebowski. There's an attempt to get pregnant, but it's entirely mechanical and lacking in romance, let alone love. Otherwise, funny as all hell.

If you're into, you know, the whole sort-of-pointless-but-funny-as-hell movie thing. Enjoy it with a White Russian. Or seven.
posted by CommonSense at 6:13 PM on August 23, 2007

Stay far, far away from Blood Meridian if you don't like violence.
posted by djb at 6:15 PM on August 23, 2007

Master and Commander the movie is . . . pretty romance-free. There may be a scene with a letter to a girl back home. But they are on boats in the middle of the ocean, and we know the stereotypical superstition about women and boats.

The books have more romance, but it is almost always angsty and bitter. Or hopeless. But the movie is good.
posted by that girl at 6:23 PM on August 23, 2007

Master and Commander = two women in the entire movie. One is a picture, the other a glimpse. On that same naval vein, the Mutiny/Restribution parts, which can be watched alone, of Horatio Hornblower, are also romance-free.
posted by melissam at 6:50 PM on August 23, 2007

"children of men" was awesome. there are a couple of characters who love or are in love, but it's only fleeting.

I cannot believe you just recommended that movie to somebody who wants avoid themes of love, violence or sadness. It's about the most affectingly violent and sad recent movie I've seen.
posted by contraption at 6:53 PM on August 23, 2007

School of Rock.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

To clarify: the movie version of Master and Commander is relatively romance-free, but the book series (which is excellent, and highly recommended in other aspects) does have both Aubrey and Maturin pairing off eventually, with the inevitable travails of lengthy separations. The first few books in the series are safe though.
posted by ambrosia at 7:44 PM on August 23, 2007

The Heartbreak Kid....spolied Jewish prince dumps his wife for the hot blonde shiksa goddess....does winning this prize make him happy?

God knows how the Ben Stiller remake will turn out.
posted by brujita at 8:07 PM on August 23, 2007

No, this doesn't answer your question--but I would hardly call it a romance.
posted by brujita at 8:09 PM on August 23, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum is love-free for the most part. Bonus: you can still catch it in the theatres, and it's a brilliant film.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 8:18 PM on August 23, 2007

"Sneakers" involves a past romance between two characters, but they keep it on a professional level and we know there's no chance they'll actually get back together.

I found a list of non-romantic movies on Amazon.
posted by Myself at 10:20 PM on August 23, 2007

There's a very slight romantic subplot in The Blues Brothers, but it is very short and played only for comic relief.
posted by Gary at 10:28 PM on August 23, 2007

My coworker came up with this off the top of his head:

big red one
hogan's heroes
the hunt for red october
crimson tide
das boot
tora tora tora
alien(s)(vs predator)
remember the titans
open season
over the hedge
saw 1/2/3
tomb raider
resident evil
aeon flux
interview with the vampire
the grudge
posted by Myself at 2:17 AM on August 24, 2007

Myself, your coworker didn't see the whole request, did he? -- Also, not a lot of violence ... I'm thinking films about wars, the military, zombies, serial killers and whatever the fuck Hostel is are unlikely to suit.

That said, I'm not mad keen on large amounts of violence either, and haven't seen all the films on the list, but would be happy to see most of The Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide and Interview with the Vampire again. My reasons for not wanting to see Anaconda again are more to do with the unrelenting idiocy than the people being eaten by snakes.
posted by Lebannen at 4:18 AM on August 24, 2007

Borat, perhaps? Also try Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (a classic - a bit heavy on drug references, but otherwise quite entertaining).
posted by galimatias at 4:44 AM on August 24, 2007

Actually, the first Rocky film did devote no small amount of time to Rocky & Adrian's romance, so I'd scratch that.

Blade 1&2
Withnail and I
The Marathon Man
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Minority Report
Stand By Me
Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade
Silence of the Lambs
Reservoir Dogs
Terminator 2
Full Metal Jacket
I, Robot
The Sixth Sense (don't hold me to those last three)
Kill Bill
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
Time Bandits
First Blood
posted by Martin E. at 5:58 AM on August 24, 2007

oh, and Twilight Zone: The Movie
The Green Mile
Touching the Void
Ring/Ring 2 (originals or US remakes)
Naked Lunch
Drugstore Cowboy
Shallow Grave
A Simple Plan
posted by Martin E. at 6:27 AM on August 24, 2007

"Here are five principles of storytelling that [are] crucial to most Hollywood films.

1. Goal orientation.
The primary characters, protagonist and antagonist, both want something, or several somethings. The story progression is driven by characters’ efforts to attain goals and the way circumstances alter those goals.

At the same time, characters’ efforts to achieve goals create changes in the people themselves. Sometimes they realize that they’re pursuing the wrong goal, or that they must become worthy of the goal. In Storytelling, Kristin discusses such possibilities in relation to Groundhog Day.

2. The double plotline.
Typically the goals govern least two lines of action, and at least one of these involves heterosexual romantic love. (emphasis mine) A common pattern is a work/love pairing, where job problems affect and are affected by romantic relationships. Recent examples: The Devil Wears Prada, The Good Shepherd, The Prestige. In some cases one plotline is subordinate to the other, but both are very often present.

Here’s a case of a norm that hasn’t, so far as I know, been articulated by the filmmakers themselves. It seems simply to be taken for granted."

From here.

You've gotten many good suggestions, but part of the issue is that Hollywood movie rate PG and up almost always have some kind of romantic entanglement. As the author says, it's just taken for granted.
posted by blueshammer at 6:58 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Danny Boyle's new movie Sunshine
The Shining
Ju-on (Japanese grudge)

just the ones I can think of on the top of my head.
posted by Large Marge at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2007

A Civil Action (although it is based on a true story). It has sad elements, but the focus is more on the legal battle and spiraling career of the main character, so it's not totally depressing.
posted by ubu at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2007

Mullholland Drive ...I've seen it a dozen times and still have no idea what it is about. It should keep you occupied for some time.

Also, Gattaca. Awesome movie, and I'm pretty sure the romance never comes to fruition.
posted by AlliKat75 at 8:07 AM on August 24, 2007

"Inside Men" is suspenseful but not that violent. "The World's Fastest Indian" does feature a sexually active senior, but it's mostly romance-free.

They are not that new, but "A Short History of a Small Place", a hilarious southern novel, and the devious "Debt to Pleasure" might fit the bill. You probably know of "The Power and the Glory", and "Life of Pi" already.
posted by of strange foe at 10:32 AM on August 24, 2007

Some space opera novels might fit the bill, depending on your tolerance for science fiction. These do tend to have violent incidents but it's often romanticised and distant. For instance, Mutineer, by Mike Shepherd, or The Warrior's Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Watch out, as some of these series eventually get to romance. I'm not saying they are necessarily good books (Mike Shepherd's are not), but a lot of people want comfort reading as well as good books. For the latter, you might want to think about non-fiction. I know you say fiction, but you also mention wanting good stories, and there are a lot of these in biography, for example - you could try Jenny Uglow's The Lunar Men, for instance.
posted by paduasoy at 3:16 PM on August 24, 2007

City Slickers 1 & 2 (wives are onscreen all of about 10 minutes)
The Fugitive (wife dies in the first 10 minutes)
Dirty Harry
Twelve Monkeys
Manhunter & Red Dragon
Slums of Beverley Hills
K-19 (Widowmaker)
Escape from Alcatraz
Evil Dead I & II
The Handmaid's Tale
The Royal Tenenbaums (I may be mistaken here--I don't remember any romance-subplots)
Psycho, the Rope, and Rear Window (all Hitchcock)
Mission: Impossible
To Be or Not To Be (Mel Brooks version: Mel & Anne Bancroft are a happily married couple, yes, but there's not a romantic subplot--they may as well be best friends who happen to be opposite sex)
Clay Pigeons
Red Rock West
From Dusk Till Dawn
The Doors
Apocalypse Now
Little Man Tate
Taxi Driver
Slacker (Linkletter)
Runaway Jury
Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead
The Usual Suspects
A Time to Kill
Girl, Interrupted
Office Space
Altered States
12 Angry Men (too old?)
In the Heat of the Night (too old?)
To Kill a Mockingbird (too old?)
Becket (too old?)

To the best of my memory, none of the films I mentioned have a significant male-female main plotline or subplot, and if they do it's so minor and/or distant from the main plot that I've forgotten. Some will include major characters in stable relationships/marriages but where this is incidental to the plot and doesn't drive the action or end in a "oh, my husband/wife is now safe from harm--big smoochfest."

This list could be expanded to include films where male-female-sexual-romantic interactions are a major/minor plotline but are anything but an advertisement for romance (eg Sid & Nancy, MASH, The Last Seduction, Goodfellas, Scarface, Casino, Heathers).
posted by Martin E. at 6:08 PM on August 24, 2007

Oh, and...
Fight Club
American Psycho
Glory (I think)
The French Connection (too old?)
posted by Martin E. at 6:21 PM on August 24, 2007

I'm currently re-reading The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. Despite the word 'Loved' in the title, there is no romance. The conflict in the story is the classic man vs nature (or rather girl vs nature) when a nine year old girl gets lost in the woods and struggles for survival.

A quick glance over my bookshelf and DVD shelf, and I'm not seeing any others that meet your criteria. Nearly ever Hollywood movie has a love story, and most books do as well.
posted by happyturtle at 3:14 PM on August 25, 2007

Oh, I forgot, Hot Fuzz is another good one. No romance there
posted by melissam at 8:16 PM on August 26, 2007

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